Enjoy storytelling with a flair by Juan Alvarado Valdivia, confessional rock by Christopher Danzig, and delicious recipes from Bay Area chefs from Carolyn Jung.
Ballad of a Slopsucker by Juan Alvarado Valdivia (University of New Mexico Press, 2019, 168 pp., $19.95)
Get ready to experience a range of emotions in Juan Alvarado Valdivia’s debut collection of short stories. Fear and anger, sadness and passion, shame and envy, friendship and pity are all represented — and that’s just in the first half of the 12-story array. Born to Peruvian parents and raised in Fremont, the author sets his stories in the San Francisco Bay Area, capturing Oakland, San Francisco, and Fremont culture in knowing detail. The storytelling is compelling and even gripping. There’s a pattern of abrupt and subject-to-interpretation endings that initially halt but then push the reader ahead and on to the next tale where a Latino protagonist reveals truths and lies in a complicated world. —Judith M. Gallman
Calamity by Christopher Danzig. A Diamond Heart Production.
Danzig, the bass player in the Bay Area’s hard rocking Down and Outlaws, takes a turn on this four-song EP toward something more acoustic, more intimate, more confessional. Calamity owes less to Television and The Cure than to the contorted folk-rock of John Martyn, Tim Buckley, and Robyn Hitchcock. Danzig lays foundations of fingerpicked and strummed guitar, and overdubs keyboards, bass, drums, and electric guitar here and there, all to frame the rise and fall of his hypnotic vocal drone. An experienced journalist, he writes lyrics that are “So Heavy,” as the opening song’s title signals, compellingly dark, rife with suspicion, resentment, and resistance. If, like Danzig, you feel “at home” in “this calamity,” these songs will be a perfect fit. —Derk Richardson
East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries by Carolyn Jung, photographs by Eva Kolenko (Figure 1 Publishing, Sept. 10, 2019, 208 pp., $32.99)
Food Gal Carolyn Jung, a James Beard Award-winning writer and frequent contributor to this magazine, pulls together an authoritative and diverse take on East Bay culinary superstars and delights in this handsome cookbook that features 82 recipes from more than 40 restaurants. Color photography shows off the dishes while black-and-white portraits capture the personalities of the chefs. The Oakland-centric book — Berkeley is the second most represented city — is divided by starters and little meals; salads, soups, and sides; mains; desserts, and cocktails. Jung tosses in some stalwarts as well as upstarts and lesser-known places to keep the balance interesting. —JMG